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Todos Santos 2010- Big Wave Surf Contest

My brother Phil and I made a last-minute trip south to shoot the Todos Santos Big Wave Event off the coast of Ensenada, México, on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. After shooting Mavericks a few weeks earlier, he let me know they called the Todos Santos contest. With little time to prepare, we rented extra photo gear from George’s, charged batteries, and spent the night in Tijuana. We only got a couple of hours sleep before waking up around 4 a.m. to head to Ensenada.

We were to meet at 5:30 a.m. at the boat but arrived in Ensenada 20 minutes behind schedule. We knew to meet at the marina, but didn’t know exactly where. As the confusion began to peak, I resorted to breaking a few traffic laws, including one right in front of a police cruiser. At this moment, I assumed the day would be a total bust. Thankfully, the officer didn’t notice and we made it to the dock. It was a huge relief to find the group and get our bearings on the boat.


Ensenada Marina

Open Water

It took about an hour and a half to get to Isla Todos Santos, about 12 miles off the coast of Ensenada. The swells were big enough to have everyone excited. The first sign we were arriving was a broken surfboard floating by the boat.

Broken Surfboard

Todos Santos Island Lighthouse


The competition had already begun when we arrived. The water was busy with jet skis and boats, blocking quite a few shots. Some photographers on skis were using weather-sealed digital SLRs, but without water housings. Our captain was pretty conservative and kept us out of optimal shooting position for most of the day. But considering it started around 8 a.m. and ended around 2:30 p.m., there was plenty of time to get a few clear shots throughout the day.

Heat 1 Qualifiers: Greg Long, Carlos Burle, Kohl Christensen

Todos Santos - Greg Long

Todos Santos - Greg Long

Todos Santos - Will Dillon Wipeout

Todos Santos - Carlos Burle

Todos Santos - Kealii Mamala Fall

Heat 2 Qualifiers: Gabriel Villarán, Grant “Twiggy” Baker, Mark Healey

This next shot is Phil’s, but I have to include it because it does a better job than mine do of giving the scale of these waves (check out his Todos Santos gallery). Gabriel Villarán rode this monster, considered the biggest wave of the day:

Todos Santos Big Wave Contest 2010

Todos Santos - Gabriel Villarán, Dave Wassel

Todos Santos - Mark Healey

Heat 3 Qualifiers: Mike Parson, Jaimie Sterling, Ken Collins

Todos Santos - Frothy Curl

Heat 4 Qualifiers: Grant Washburn, Shane Dorian, Ramon Navarro

Todos Santos - Shane Dorian

Heat 5, Semi-Final 1 Qualifiers: Grant “Twiggy” Baker, Carlos Burle, Mark Healey

Todos Santos - Watching

Heat 6, Semi-Final2 Qualifiers: Shane Dorian, Ramon Navarro, Grant Washburn

Todos Santos - Shane Dorian

Heat 7, Final: Mark Healey (1st), Shane Dorian (2nd), Ramon Navarro (3rd), Carlos Burle (4th), Grant “Twiggy” Baker (5th), Grant Washburn (6th)

Todos Santos - Shane Dorian

Todos Santos - Carlos Burle

Todos Santos - Mark Healey

Todos Santos - Last Chance

The waves were amazing all day. The sets were largest at the beginning of the day and seemed to ramp down slowly through the competition. I’d never seen waves this size in person; it’s an amazing thing to witness. The power and force of the water, the color, the sound. It’s breathtaking to see someone take on a giant.

Todos Santos - Seascape

Todos Santos - Translucent Beauty

5 replies on “Todos Santos 2010- Big Wave Surf Contest”

There were about 30 surfers, and maybe 50 other people out in the water including rescue crew, organizers,viewers and photographers. But it’s probably safe to say somewhere between 1:1 and 1:2.

Tony, I think you’ll be pretty safe just showing up and talking to people to see who will put together the route you want. Depending on how early in the morning you need to go out, it’s probably best to go the day before to confirm before leaving the next morning.

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